The Bold Warrior and The Crafty Warrior

Let me tell a story.

Once upon a time there were two warriors. They knew each other in passing and were distantly related. The first warrior was strong and bold. He was cocky, brash, and beloved. The second warrior was cunning and crafty. He was agile, thoughtful, and inspiring.

One day another warrior who was cousin to the first and brother to the second rose up to make himself a kingdom. He was blood thirsty and covetous. He slew some of his neighbors and enslaved others. His kinsman tried to reason with him, but this tyrant knew no restraint. He would not rest until all bent the knee to him. And so the bold warrior and the crafty warrior took up arms and faced the tyrant in battle.

It was a bloody war that was waged all across the land. In the end the bold warrior and the crafty warrior overthrew the tyrant and cast him down. The land was scared and wrecked. The crafty warrior saw his chance to finally fulfill his desire to rule. He began to scheme and extend his influence and his lands. The bold warrior only wanted to retire to his own lands and return to the plow. Instead he stayed at arms and sought to protect the land from the machinations of the crafty warrior.

Their struggle was epic and lasted ages. It was fought mostly with subterfuge and sometimes with sword and flame. The land returned to prosperity in the shadow of this conflict. The warriors ebbed and flowed in strength and power. One would have the upper hand and then the other, and the struggled continued. All the while there was nightmare that haunted the people that eventually the two warriors would wage war with all that they had at their disposal.

Then the day came when the two warriors faced each other and the bold warrior saw his chance. He saw an advantageous opening in his enemies armor. He thrust his trusted ever sharp sword into his enemy. It struck true. The crafty warrior fell. The bold warrior felt elation that this long and exhausting fight was now over. It was then that he noticed the dagger in the hand of his foe. When the bold warrior was dealing the death blow the crafty warrior had struck with a poisoned blade. The bold warrior then descended into madness as the poison spread through his body.

Did the bold warrior recover and return home or did he succumb to the poison? Here our story ends.

The story ends here because we are in the midst of living it. The United States won the Cold War and ended the Soviet Union. It may turn out to be a pyrrhic victory. During the course of that conflict we’ve become poisoned with what some are calling ‘postmodern neo Marxism’. A daunting term so let’s break it down. First “neo Marxism” and then “postmodernism”.

Classical Marxism was an all encompassing economic theory that focused on the imbalance of power between economic classes. Neo Marxism expands this class struggle to encompass almost every social group that one may belong to: sex, race, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, gender identity, and so on and so on. Unlike the traditional Western concept that one’s primary identity is that of being an individual in neo Marxist thought identity is primarily that of the social groups to which one belongs. And amongst the subdivisions of these groups there is an imbalance of power perpetrated by those who hold greater power. This imbalance must be redressed. Hence identity politics.

Postmodernism is a twin brother, excuse me, a twin non self-identified gendered sibling to neo Marxism. It posits that there is no objective truth, no objective morals, nor any objective reality. Instead these are products of society and have been imposed by those who hold power. Everything is relative to the individual. What is true for you may or may not also be true for me. In the words of Justice Kennedy, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life….” We no longer think, we ‘feel’. Hence relativism.

Our society, and even we ourselves, have been infected with this mind virus. It can be very subtle. While it is easy enough to see it in society at large you will be surprised to reflect upon your own views and opinions and see where it was crept in. What is the antidote? I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. The only advice I can give is to come to the Cross. There meet the One who will bind your wounds and show you what is true and right. Then you can begin the process of sacrificing yourself. And when we, as St. Paul wrote in Ephesians, have “…taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.” Then go forth and bind others’ wounds, speak truth, and do right.


Larry Pryor is a native Nashvillian who was raised Southern Baptist. Discovering he was a material heretic he then entered into full communion with the Catholic Church and is now a Lay Dominican. He resides just outside of Nashville with a wife who is much too good for him. He can be followed on Twitter @PryorOP.

Ecumenical Hatred Suffering From Convert Neurosis

A famous frog once stated that, “It’s not easy being green.” During the past couple of months it hasn’t been easy being me. Last month in La Civiltà Cattolica I was indirectly accused of being part of a “ecumenism of hate.” This week in Crux it was of suffering a “convert neurosis.” If that wasn’t enough according to Jeff Foxworthy I might just be a redneck.

Two notes before I begin my thoughts on these charges. First, I apologize in advance for the biting tone and snark that will follow. It’s my struggle with concupiscence. I hope to do better. Just know that it could have been far, far worse. Second, in my twenty plus years in the Church I have never been treated with anything but warmth, respect, and love by those in the local Church here in Nashville and in Chicago. If I have not returned the same I apologize and repent for my failing. The only roughness I have received has been for my spiritual health in the confessional. That I deserved and am more grateful for than words can convey.

Unhesitatingly I plead guilty to being a man of the Right. I have been since I started to become politically aware at far too young an age. Thank you President Carter. A more precise classification today would have to rely on that new fallback status of “it’s complicated.” The political landscape described by the La Civiltà Cattolica article is unrecognizable to me. Christian dominionists and Catholic integralists in a grand “ecumenism of hate” simply does not exist. Integralism is a European phenomenon, not an American one. The authors’ knowledge of American politics seems to be based on some mash up of The Brothers Grimm and The Huffington Post. On to the three characteristics of this  alliance.

Manichaeism. I’ll give partial credit for this one. It’s natural for humans to simplify disagreements to stark good versus evil. However I would point out that the political Left in the United States is far more guilty of this. As Charles Krauthamer has pointed out, “To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.”

Prosperity Gospel. Not really an American Catholic belief, unless you take it to mean a belief that because we live in a republic with a free market anyone who abides by the law and works hard has a very good chance to live well materially.

Religious Liberty. This is a danger according to the authors in that it means “a ‘religion in total freedom,’ perceived as a direct virtual challenge to the secularity of the state.” In short theocracy. While you could probably find a handful of Americans who would be up for that ,it is antithetical to the American Right. We want as little government involvement in our religion and in our lives as possible. A core of our belief as stated in Reagan’s First Inaugural is, “…government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Now for the neurosis of the convert. Austen Ivereigh at Crux posits that converts who have a problem with some of the actions of Pope Francis may be suffering from some form of spiritual post traumatic stress disorder. Unlike Baskin Robbins this comes in two flavors. The first afflicts those who come from a background that saw rancorous splits over theological issues, primarily from the Anglican Communion. They see current disagreements in the Church as a replay of that trauma. The second is for those who came from a less fixed background and came to the Church expecting an unchanging stability. Now that doctrine is developing that feel that the Church is built on sand and not rock.

I’m not sure where that leaves me. I was Southern Baptist. One of the waypoints in my journey home (see what I did there Marcus Grodi?) was reading about the development of Christology in the early Councils. That took nearly 500 years.

My reply to Mr. Ivereigh is that we converts have all paid a price to become Catholic. For most of us it was a pittance. While Jesus warned us about the treatment we would receive, it is a kick in the teeth when it comes from fellow Catholics.  Some came to the Church because we saw the truth and logic of the Magisterium, Sacred Tradition, and Sacred Scriptures buttressing each other. When the Holy Father appears to be advancing a development that is at odds with Tradition and Scripture then as a premier teacher under the Magisterium it is his duty to explain this.

You may reply that is is an “… incongruity – of those who join the Catholic Church in a blaze of Damascene fervor later announcing noisily, after a new pope is elected, that the pope is not doing what they believe popes should do.” If you will permit a convert to quote Scripture to a cradle Catholic I would point out that the first to have that “Damascene fervor” wrote the following in the second chapter of Galatians:

And when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong. For, until some people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to draw back and separated himself, because he was afraid of the circumcised. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not on the right road in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of all, “If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Pope Francis has my filial obedience and love. I pray for him as I am sure he is praying for me. I am confused. I am not saying that he is wrong. After all. “Who am I to judge?”

It’s Not About Points

Not long ago on a Friday a friend and I stopped for lunch at a fast food restaurant. It being Lent my Protestant friend knew I couldn’t eat meat. What he didn’t know is that I was also on a paleo diet. Needless to say my options were rather limited. A few days later he was telling the story to his wife and turned to me and said, “You know God doesn’t give extra points for that, right?”

I knew what he meant as I had grown up in a similar evangelical tradition. The view is that you are either saved or not and there is nothing we can do to influence our salvation except to make the decision to accept Jesus as our personal lord and savior. Accepting this gift through faith God now ‘covers’ our sins and sinful nature with Christ and allows us Continue To Read More

Allegory of the Net

Imagine that you live in a nice apartment. There’s a comfy bed, wall sized high def TV, and a smoking fast internet connection. Your basic needs are met. All of the chips and carbonated beverages you could want. Thousands of friends on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. Pretty much the average life here in America. Just one difference. You never leave your apartment. You never have actual contact with another human being.

Everything you know about the world outside your own four walls is what you have seen on television and the internet. A day like any other dawns. This day is different. You are forced out into the great outside world. Fear rises in you. Reality beyond the digital simulation beckons. Continue To Read More

Mysteries

Years ago we thought that the galaxy should be swarming with intelligent life. Part of that supposition was based on there only needing to be about a dozen different variables for a planet to support life. Current thought is that there are now more than 200 parameters that must be met for life to emerge on a planet. The odds of any planet supporting intelligent life would be truly astronomical even in a galaxy with billions of stars. The universe has become much more lonely. Still it’s a big universe and Man may still meet another intelligence from out there. If we do I am confident that we will be able to coexist. After all we’ve gotten along (mostly) with women since the beginning. How difficult could aliens be?

Women are as mysterious to men as anything that may be out there among the stars. As we get older we learn a little. Mostly by a process of learning from our mistakes. We are confronted by how much we do not and will never know about the fairer sex. That’s a good thing. Men love a challenge. It keeps us on our toes. So in a man’s life there are two great mysteries… women and God.

When I was going through RCIA Fr. Klasek explained that what we normally thought of as mystery really wasn’t. It was not the Sherlock Holmes type of mystery. A whodunit. There are merely problems. A situation with a definitive answer that can be discovered. A true mystery can never fully be known or understood. We can learn in part and understand some, but the entirety of knowing shall always escape us. Logic and revelation can only lead us so far down the path, never arriving at the final destination.

This Thursday we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. While this is a commemoration of Mary’s conception without sin during Advent it is hard not to also reflect on why this happened. Our understanding is that God applied the merits of Jesus to Mary in this way so that she could be the tabernacle of the new covenant.The New Eve. Once again the fate of creation would hang on the decision of a woman. After the disobedience in the garden God gave us a promise in Genesis 3:15:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
They will strike at your head,
while you strike at their heel.

Here we have the proto-evangelium. The first promise of the gospel. By Mary’s assent to become the ‘handmaid of the Lord’ she became the Theotokos, literally the ‘God-bearer’ or the Mother of God. And so the story of our salvation continues with God dwelling with us.

As a man I can only contemplate this in humility and wonder. This was the moment. The gates of Heaven began to creak. Yearning to burst open after Christ’s salvific work. In God there is no doubt. Doubt is for humans exercising their free will. I say this moment was the lynch pin. These two great mysteries of a man’s life conspired together without the input of any man. That conspiracy began the mystery of our redemption and the restoration of the kingdom. While it is not yet perfectly realized we work and wait for that day of the Son of Man and the final inauguration of His kingdom.

Double Advent

Nashville has finally seen the return of autumn and Advent has come following closely. Advent is a strange liturgical time in that the church year is beginning with a doubled sense of anticipation. The cooling days with falling leaves are spent waiting, waiting, waiting. Everyone is longing for the day to come when we celebrate the birth of Jesus and the awaited return of the jolly fat elf in the red suit. Society at large is waiting for the return of Santa. I’m sure you were reminded in this past Sunday’s sermon about the dual nature of Advent. It’s not just a time for stockings and presents. It’s a time to prepare ourselves for that next Advent. The final coming of Our Lord and the fulfillment of His kingdom.

Reading the Gospels I was always struck by how Jesus spoke of the kingdom as being “at hand” (Mt 4:17) or even “…there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” (Mk 9:1). This makes it seem that the kingdom was near and that it certainly should be here now. This world can hardly be mistaken for the world of that kingdom as described by the Scriptures. The lions and lambs are not making nice and swords and spears are still being used in the time honored method. There are moments when there are flashes of the kingdom to come or maybe echoes of long lost Eden. Flashes though are not reality. Remember that God does seem to be like a poet. Repeating themes in stanza after stanza in the poem of Creation. Is there something in the past that is the same sort of theme of being and yet not being fully manifested? I was looking for a type. A prefiguring that would shed light on this problem.

Advent offered that type, that image. Nativity of Jesus and His return. Naturally the image of the kingdom having been conceived and now gestating waiting for it’s birth. It seems fitting to me that we can think of Jesus growing and developing as a man in Mary and now we Christians grow and develop also in Mary waiting for that next nativity. When the Mass was revised there was a part of the Creed that was updated. The phrase “…by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary…” was changed to “…and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary…” See the distinction? Jesus was already here with us as a man at the Incarnation. His brith at Christmas was the fulfillment of his becoming flesh and dwelling with us. The Kingdom and the Incarnation are a double Advent and a double Nativity. Now and not yet.

The Image of the King

The Church has many ways of describing Jesus. Son. Lord. Savior. Shepherd. Rock. Bridegroom. I’m sure we all have one or more of these titles that calls to us more than the others. This past Sunday we celebrated Jesus as King of the Universe in the Solemnity of Christ the King. For me this title is one that particularly resonates on a deep level. It may be a matter of temperament, biology, or even upbringing. There’s no right or wrong in being drawn to Jesus more closely in one aspect versus another as long as we acknowledge the truth in them all.

St. Augustine once said that the New Testament was hidden in the Old Testament. One way this happens is by “types.” This is something in the Old Testament that prefigures or images a truth revealed in the New Testament. An example often given is that of the Israelites passing through the Red Sea is a type of the coming sacrament of baptism. David is this royal prefigurement of Christ the King. Christ’s incarnation and return are the full manifestation of the Davidic Kingdom. Christ’s kingship is typified not just in Scripture, but in ancient stories and in modern popular entertainment.

An entire litany could be composed of these images of the good king. Some are historical. Some semi-historical. Some are entirely fictional. Some are true kings and some are kingly. David. Richard Coeur de Lion. El Cid. Aragorn. Charlemagne. Alexander. Jan Sobieski. Arthur. Harry (or Henry V if you prefer). Leonidas. Most of those names are probably familiar. The question is why do they so memorable? I will only speak for myself. My guess would be that many men would agree with me, your mileage may vary.

Even we Americans as republican, democrat, and anti-monarchist as we are yearn to bend the knee to a King who offers us the chance to be better than we are. We yearn to be part of “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”, to hear the call to arms to follow the one who can give meaning to our lives. One who can receive all of our love and loyalty and return it in untold measures. To mount our horses, lower our lances, and charge against the foe.  To fulfill what we should have been if it hadn’t been for that damned apple. To fight against impossible odds. To fight well and to the fullest extent and when all seems finished and we are totally spent, to look up and realize that the battle has been won. To have a lord worthy of all this and more.

It breaks my heart to admit this, but Narsil shall never be reforged and Arthur shall never return from the Isle of Avalon. The kings mentioned above are only types of the King. They are only images that show some truth about the true King. They are not that truth themselves. The truth is that:

He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

The kingdom is now and not yet. It was conceived during Christ’s Incarnation. Now it is still gestating and growing in the world. The invitation is to all of us to join the King and become subjects of that kingdom. Yet Satan prowls about the world seeking the ultimate abortion of that kingdom. Even if he cannot murder the kingdom he can tear parts of it’s members from it. Stay strong and rejoice for the day of the nativity of that kingdom is coming. Christmas Day is coming again.